GOP Debates Are Nice, But Really its the Polices

1 10 2007

Pundits and pols, alike have rightfully criticized the top four GOP Presidential hopefuls for deciding to skip the Republican debate sponsored by PBS and hosted by Tavis Smiley. The forum focused on issues important to African-Americans and Latinos voters.

Black Republicans such as former Congressman J.C. Watts, who called the decision “stupid,” and former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who called it a “disappointment,” were not shy about making their criticisms of the absentee candidates very public.

In citing lame excuses like scheduling conflicts Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney simply confirmed suspicions many people of color already had, which is that the GOP does not care about their votes.

Even the conservative editorial board at Washington Times chimed in on the subject.

If the Republican Party hopes to make any gains among minorities, it must stop undervaluing these voting blocs. The snubbings will result in a continued drubbing at the polls, just as we saw in 2006. We’re giving this advice free of charge: Stop giving the party a bad name.

Now, while its somewhat encouraging that conservatives of different hues have joined the chorus of criticism, such critics would do alot more good for their party by turning their critical eyes toward onto certain polices endorsed by the Republicans, which also serve to drive away potential voters.

Its no secret that strengthening and expanding anti-discrimination laws or improving the living conditions of people of color has not been a priority for the Republican party, since the implementation of the Southern Strategy. By racially polarizing the electorate through race baiting in the South and elsewhere in the country, Republicans owe the consolidation of their party base in no small part to open hostility to civil rights advances.

Of course, like many other people of color, I yearn for a time when both major parties would compete for the minority voter support, but the Republican party’s track record clearly shows that it does not truly aim to be the party of inclusion.

For example, in recent years, Republicans have labeled efforts to abolish racial profiling as another form of political correctness, they have killed comprehensive immigration reform with xenophobia, they have sought to dismantle affirmative action on the state level, and used voter suppression tactics such as caging and phantom voter fraud allegations to achieve a partisian advantage. These polices have a real affect on the electorate.

Consider Latinos. In 2004, one poll had Bush receiving as much as 41 percent of the Latino vote, but then nearly 70 percent of them broke for Democrats during the midterm elections. Of course, like most the electorate, many Latinos voters were disenchanted by the war in Iraq and a scandal plagued Republican Congress. But it’s also difficult to overstate the seismic shift that took place after the Republcan controlled House passed Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr’s immigration enforcement only bill.

Consider Muslims. At one point the Republican Party was made considerable inroads in courting Muslims support. In 2000, President Bush received a 42 percent of the Muslim vote, not the majority, but still a decent showing. But after the enactment of a barrage of discriminatory laws after 9/11, including racial profiling, much of that support dried up. In fact, some polls had Muslim support for Senator John Kerry as high as 70 – 80 percent in the 2004 Presidential election.

And while black support for President Bush has never really been high, his approval rating among African-Americans dropped to a stunning two percent. That’s right, I said two percent. I bet Nixon could do better than that from the grave.

So while a debate is nice, advocating and implementing progressive policies would be a lot better.

If nothing else, examples like these demonstrate how the Republican Party has had a history of alienating minority voters through their polices almost as soon as they seem to be garnering their support. Until the Republican party actually confronts the legacy of the southern strategy and its history of indifference towards minority voters, it will increasingly become the party of conservative white America even as the country becomes more diverse.  Thats not just bad for politics, its bad for the nation too.

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